With the 2022 season off to a fast start, let’s take a look at the top 10 MLB players that roam Center Field! To see the top 10 MLB players at other spots around the diamond, follow the links below!
Center field features some of the best talent in baseball. Mike Trout has been on top for nearly a decade – and he is again – but it features a little bit of everything. If you’re looking for superstars, here’s Mike Trout and Byron Buxton. Exceptional defenders? Harrison Bader and Kevin Kiermaier have incredible range and have some of the best highlight reels out of anyone in the league. As far as young talent goes, Julio Rodriguez and Riley Greene are both top ten prospects ready to make their mark on the big leagues in 2022. It’s not the deepest position but I’d like to shout out Enrique Hernandez and Myles Straw, who are close to the top ten for entirely different reasons.
10. Trent Grisham, SDP
Trent Grisham will probably always be known for the “rookie mistake” that cost the Brewers the 2019 National League Wild Card Game and allowed the Washington Nationals to eventually win the World Series. But as a baseball player, Grisham is so much more. In 2021, Grisham had a 103 wRC+, 2.0 BsR, and 2.1 fWAR in 132 games. He was traded to San Diego in the offseason following the 2019 season and even won a Gold Glove Award in 2020. He’s a solid hitter with a great glove, and there seems to be a little bit of upside with his bat.
9. Harrison Bader, STL
Harrison Bader is consistent. The only question is how many games he’ll play. He has an above-average bat to go with his elite defense and baserunning. He put up a 110 wRC+, 14 OAA, 2.5 BsR, and 3.4 fWAR in 103 games in 2021. He’s never played a full 150 games, so don’t expect that in 2022. He’ll probably never be more than an elite defender with a solid bat, but 100 games of that will put him squarely in the top ten center fielders once again.
8. Cedric Mullins II, BAL
Cedric Mullins II had a huge breakout season in 2021, posting a .291/.360/.518 triple slash with a 136 wRC+ while taking home the Silver Slugger Award and finishing top-10 in MVP voting. Mullins ditched switch-hitting and was able to cut his strikeout rate to 18.5% and raise his walk rate to 8.7%. His improved plate discipline made up for what he lacked in batted-ball data. Mullins overperformed his .344 xwOBA by nearly 30 points and had a barrel rate of just 8.1%. In the field, Mullins is a Gold Glove candidate with 10 OAA in 1264.0 innings. Mullins is an all-around player, but he needs to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke to move any higher on this list.
7. Brandon Nimmo, NYM
Brandon Nimmo is one of the most disciplined hitters in the league. He’s had an OBP above .400 in three of the last four seasons and ranks 4th in the league in OBP since the start of the 2018 season. However, he’s not just a guy who gets on base. Nimmo also runs the bases well (4.9 career BsR) and has shown a little bit of power (.190 ISO since 2018). Up until last year, Nimmo’s main concern was his defense. Last year, however, he had 4 OAA in center. He’s the starting center fielder and leadoff man for New York once again in 2022 and there’s no reason to believe he won’t put up another great season.
6. Bryan Reynolds, PIT
Bryan Reynolds, whose name was thrown around in trade rumors all offseason, is back for a fourth straight year with the Pirates. He had great seasons in 2019 and 2021 but had a bad year in the abbreviated 2020 season. Last year, Reynolds slashed .302/.390/.522 with a 142 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR while playing 159 games and finishing just outside the top-10 in NL MVP voting. He’s an elite hitter, elite defender, and solid baserunner. He just misses out on the top five due to the depth of center field, but he could easily be in it by the end of the year.
5. George Springer, TOR
It hurts me to put George Springer this low. You could make the argument that each of the top five center fielders in the league are top twenty position players. Springer’s first season in Toronto was derailed by injuries, but he was great when he saw the field. In 78 games, he had a .352 OBP, .555 SLG, and 140 wRC+ while slugging 22 home runs in just 342 PAs. When he’s healthy, Springer is one of the best hitters in the game. He has at least a 140 wRC+ in four of the past five years and has won two silver sluggers. His ring may be tainted, but there’s no denying that Springer has an elite bat.
4. Byron Buxton, MIN
The only thing holding Byron Buxton back is his health. Many players get labeled injury-prone, but Buxton has only played 100 games once in his eight-year major league career. In 2021, Buxton had a .647 SLG, 169 wRC+, 4.4 BsR, and 4.2 fWAR in 61 games. If he played 150 at that pace, he’d have had a 10.3 WAR season. He’s got an elite bat, elite speed, and elite glove. He had 7 OAA and 10 DRS in just 509.2 innings in 2021. If Buxton can stay healthy, he’s an MVP favorite. If he plays even 100 games, he’ll probably put up 7 WAR.
3. Luis Robert, CWS
Luis Robert is the most popular (not-so) dark horse AL MVP pick in 2022. They have a solid argument, Robert is an incredible young talent. In 2021, Robert had a 157 wRC+ and 3.2 fWAR in 68 games. He dealt with injuries throughout the year, but he’s just 24 years old and already established himself as a great hitter. In his career, Robert has already put up 10 OAA in 1058.1 innings. Robert has an elite glove, elite speed, and an elite bat, placing himself squarely in the top five.
2. Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL
Ronald Acuna Jr. won’t make his season debut until May at the very earliest, but he was on his way to establishing himself as the best player in baseball until he went down with a torn ACL last July. Even after the injury, he should still be one of the best players in baseball. In his first 395 career games, he’s slashed .281/.376/.549 with a 140 wRC+ and 15.8 fWAR. He’s also only 24 years old and already has one of the most electric bats in the league. He’s moving back to his natural position of center field in 2022 which only further boosts his value.
1. Mike Trout, LAA
Who else? Even after getting hurt and missing almost the entire season in 2021, Trout is still the best position player in baseball. The only guy who can give him a run for his money is his own teammate Shohei Ohtani. Trout hasn’t put up a wRC+ below 160 since he was a 19-year-old getting his first taste of the big leagues in 2011. Trout is a nine-time All-Star, eight-time Silver Slugger, Rookie of the Year, and three-time MVP. He’s still just 30 years old and has another half a career ahead of him after putting up 77.8 fWAR in his first 11 seasons. Trout will be in the thick of the MVP race once again in 2022.
Let us know in the comments about your thoughts on the top 10 MLB players in Center Field!
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images